Ace Cafe Italian Night – June 2014

A lovely summer evening and the promise of daylight until 10pm, thanks to being close to the longest day of the year, combined to lead to me to expect that when I arrived at the iconic Ace Cafe around 7pm for the popular Italian Car night, I would find the place overflowing with machinery that embraced the theme of the evening. Slightly to my surprise, the forecourt in front of the Cafe was not quite full, and thanks to a number of comings and goings during the evening, it never quite ran out of space at all. Blame, I think, the opening ceremony and first game of the 2014 World Cup for keeping a few prospective attendees away. Although understandable, that was a shame, as a bumper turn out would have been welcome following the very meagre gathering in May (when the weather had been truly awful earlier in the day). Even so, there was plenty to see, and with lots of Abarthisti friends present, plenty of people to talk to, until I realised that although it was still daylight it was 9:45pm and that home is just under 2 hours away!


By some margin, Abarth was the most numerous marque at this event, with quite a lot of cars that I have not seen here before. Following a couple of months where it was not the case, the 500-based cars outnumbered the Punto models, but the larger car was far from unrepresented, with examples of a relatively early Grande Punto (Lloyd Hartley’s much-loved and carefully looked after car) all the way to Will Webb’s recently acquired SuperSport, one of the last cars made.

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Among the 500s, there was a good mix of colours. Although the sales stats will tell you that early cars were most often painted white and more recent ones in the two shades of grey, it was Pasadoble Red that was most in evidence on this occasion, with 4 cars so painted. There was even one of the rarely spotted Legends Blue cars as well.

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In complete contrast to the modern Abarths was this one, a well known car that appears quite regularly at the event.

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On reflection there were quite a few Alfa, though as they were scattered around the forecourt, and no particular model dominated, the impression at the time was that were not many of the marque which often contributes much to this event. As the weather was nice, it was clearly a good opportunity to drive roof down in a Spider, and there were examples of the 105 series, 916 and more recent Brera-based cars all present.

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From the 105 series cars also came this very nice 2000 GTV Coupe.

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This Alfetta GTV is well known among Alfa and Italian car enthusiasts, and it is always a pleasure to see it.

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Saloon models were covered by a 75, a 155 and a couple of 156s.

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Hatchback cars included a couple of 147 GTAs and a regular model, as well as (undepicted) the modern MiTo and Giulietta.

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There always seems to be one car that stands out above all others at this event, and on this occasion, for me, it was this fabulous Autobianchi A112. Meticulously restored, it appears at a number of Italian car events, and it never fails to delight. The A112 was a small hatchback launched in 1969, as a sort of pilot before the commercially more successful (but equally rare, these days) Fiat 127 appeared, following the same formula. The A112 was never officially sold in the UK, but they were a common sight on European roads, not least because the model was produced until 1985. Nowadays they are rare, most of them having been claimed by rust. The Abarth badged cars were a hot supermini in all but name, long before the genre became more popular.

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Three Ferrari attended during the evening. A 360 Modena left just as l arrived, which meant that the only two that I could inspect from close up were a 400i Automatic and a 348 tb.

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Not surprisingly, the most numerous Fiat was the Coupe, with a couple of cars arriving around 9pm to add to the number that had been there for far longer.

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500s were represented by one of the limited edition current 500 models and the much smaller Nuova 500 from the early 1970s.

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This Diablo VT was given the difficult job of threading the car into a space vacated by the Ferrari 360, a challenge not made any easier by the crowd of people who thronged around the car to get a closer look.

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At one stage it looked as if the only Lancia present were going to be a pair of Beta Spiders, but a rather nice Delta Integrale did then show up.

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Surprisingly, there was not a single Maserati present

All told, then, a very pleasant summer’s evening, nearly brought to a sad end when a huge thump in the road alerted everyone to the fact that two bikers managed to hit each other. Luckily the rider who was knocked off his machine was able to get up and walk a few minutes later. A salutory reminder that showing off your pride and joy is one thing, but going too far, in traffic out on the road can be quite another. Here’s hoping we don’t see a repeat of that in July, but we do get a repeat of the glorious weather, and that more cars turn out for us all to enjoy.

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